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Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to run Western States. Where do I begin?

Your first step is to complete one of the qualifying runs listed for the coming year’s Western States Run. Choose your qualifier from the List of Qualifying Runs. If it is already near the end of the qualifying period (2nd Saturday of November), be sure to look at the next year’s qualifying races.

How do I enter?

With the exception of the automatics, all applicants must sign up for the annual WS Lottery. Applications are accepted exclusively via UltraSignup.com during the Lottery entry period, a one-week window that opens each November. Please note: You must have a valid email address to be able to sign up.

When is the Lottery Entry Period?

The Lottery entry period opens for one week (only) in mid-November of the year preceding the Run. Refer to the online Calendar for exact dates.

Who can attend the lottery, and where is it held?


The lottery is open to the public, and all runners, friends and family are encouraged to attend. Special prizes are given to Lottery winners who are present. Also, a Bonus Drawing at the end of the Lottery gives those present “one last chance” to be selected.

The lottery, starting in December 2011, will be held in the auditorium at Placer High School, 275 Orange St., Auburn, CA.

How much is the entry fee?

The entry fee is $370.00, payable upon being selected in the Lottery. It’s always possible that the entry fee could be adjusted for future events.

When will my credit card be charged?

The entry fee will be charged to your credit card immediately upon your acceptance in the lottery.

Your credit card information will be collected as part of the Lottery entry (application) process, but will be charged only if and when you are selected in the lottery. A declined credit card will result in a declined entry.

What is the deadline for getting my entry in?

The lottery registration is open for about one week during November. For specific opening and closing dates refer to the online Calendar.

Can I enter by mail?

No, hard-copy applications are no longer accepted. You must apply online at UltraSignup.com. Please note: You must have a valid email address to be able to sign up.

Do I need to qualify prior to entering?

Yes, the qualifying window closes on November 10th of the year preceeding the Run. The qualifying standards can be found on the Qualifying Standards page and on the online entry form itself. Qualifying standards are based on distances completed, without respect to age or running surfaces.

What is your refund policy?

Once you have been selected via the Lottery (or as an “automatic”) your credit card will be processed immediately. There is a firm no-refund policy.

How does the Lottery work and when is it?

A detailed explanation can be found on the Lottery page. The lottery is normally held on the first or second Saturday of December preceding the Run, starting at 9:00 a.m. and generally lasting until about noontime. For the specific date, refer to the online Calendar.

What about the Raffle? How is it different from the Lottery?

The Raffle and the Lottery are two different ways to gain entrance to the WS Run. Here is a comparison:

  • The Raffle is one of the ways we have of raising money to support Western States medical research and to maintain and protect the Western States Trail. 100% of money received from the sale of Raffle tickets goes to these efforts.
  • Lottery entrants, on the other hand, do not pay to participate in the Lottery drawing. Run entry fees are collected from the winners immediately after the close of the Lottery. Entry fees go to defray the cost of conducting the Run itself.
  • There are two Raffle drawings each year (vs. the one Lottery drawing): One on Run Check-In Day in June, the other immediately after the close of the Lottery drawing in December. Each drawing awards a FREE, automatic entry to the WS Run that is 12 to 18 months away. In other words, a Lottery winner in December will compete in the Run that is held the following June, but a Raffle winner’s entry is for the Run that is one year beyond that.
  • You do not need to be a runner to participate in the Raffle, but Lottery entrants must show evidence of being qualified to compete in the Run.
  • Raffle winners can transfer their winning ticket to another person. Certain restrictions do apply to such transfers, and winning tickets cannot be sold. Conversely, Lottery wins are not transferrable.
  • There are at least Two Raffle Winners at each drawing, but sometimes more, depending on how many tickets have been purchased since the prior drawing. By contrast, the number of Lottery winners is usually about 300, based on a number of factors each year.
  • You can only win once per drawing. No duplicates.
  • Visit the Raffle page and the Lottery page for additional details.

What happened to the Two-Time Loser (TTL) rule?

The TTL rule was originally instituted as a way to provide a guaranteed slot to those runners who applied for two consecutive years, were rejected in each of those years, and applied for a third consecutive year. The TTL rule was eliminated following the 2008 lottery. This decision was driven by the rapid growth of the TTL list in the past several years. The rule worked when we received 600 or 700 applications. But as the list of applicants grew to well over 1,000 applicants, future Runs would have consisted entirely of TTL’s.

How many tickets will I have in the lottery?

Each runner who enters the lottery and fails to gain entry into the Run (and otherwise doesn’t gain an entry via other means such as an aid station, sponsor, or MUC spot) will have additional tickets in the hat when entering the lottery the following year, thus improving the probability of being selected. Every lottery applicant will receive 2^(n-1) tickets in the hat for each consecutive failure to gain entry where n is the number of years applied. As an example: If a runner applies and fails to gain entry two consecutive times, they will have four tickets in the hat when entered in the lottery the third consecutive year (2^2), eight in fourth consecutive year (2^3), 16 in fifth (2^4), 32 in sixth (2^5), etc.  Conversely, if a runner enters the lottery one year, is not chosen and does not enter the following year, they will not have a extra tickets in the hat when applying the year after that.

If I gain entry into the Run but cannot participate due to an injury or illness can I apply and get an automatic entry the following year?

No. The Western States has a No-Rollover policy.

What are my odds of getting selected in the lottery.

The odds depend primarily on the number of Lottery entries we receive. In recent years, less than 10% of all applicants have been selected.

When do you post the results of the lottery to the website?

Results are posted to the Lottery Results List every few minutes during the drawing. Final results are posted to the website no later than 2 p.m. (PST) on the day of the Lottery.

How will I be notified if I am accepted or rejected?

In addition to the website listing, acceptance notices are sent out by e-mail immediately following the lottery.

How do I fulfill the Service Requirement that is required before running WS?

Since 1998, the Western States Endurance Run has required eight hours of service by each entrant as a way of giving back to the running community. This service can be in the form of trail maintenance or volunteer services at any run or ultramarathon. For those within traveling distance of Auburn, there is a series of trail projects held each year that directly benefit the condition of the Run course.

Pacing or crewing is NOT considered a volunteer service to an event. This requirement must be fulfilled during the 15-month period leading up to the Run. If the Service Requirement is not completed, you will not be allowed to participate in the Run. See the Service Form.

Are there training runs offered?

Yes. See the Training Runs page. The first run is in late February, and the others are in late May, during Memorial Day Weekend. It is a tremendous advantage on race day if you have taken this opportunity to familiarize yourself and any pacers with the canyons and “nighttime” sections of the course.

Do I need to be entered in the upcoming Run to participate in the training runs?

No. The training runs are open to all runners. The individual training runs are 20 miles in length, except one that is 32 miles long. If you are new to ultrarunning, this is a good chance to learn the ropes.

What can I expect on arriving at Squaw Valley, CA, for Check-In?

On Thursday, runners, crews and pacers are trickling into the Valley. We offer important clinics for runners and crews on Thursday. You can hike or run to the summit to get a feel for the first four miles of the course. On Friday, you will be very busy with runner check-in, drop-bag arrangements and a mandatory briefing. The Friday pre-race activities are usually completed by 3 p.m.

I’m flying to the Run, where should I land?

If you’re flying to the Run, you can land in Sacramento or Reno and drive to Squaw Valley. Squaw Valley is two hours driving time from Sacramento and one hour from Reno.

How do I get to the start of the Run?

Squaw Valley (aka, Olympic Valley) is 42 miles from Reno, NV, 96 miles from Sacramento, and 196 miles from San Francisco via Interstate 80. The Valley entrance (look for the Olympic Towers) is on Hwy 89, 8 miles from Truckee and 6 miles from Tahoe City (the North Shore of Lake Tahoe.)

From San Francisco/Sacramento/Northern California: Take Interstate 80 northeast into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Exit at Truckee, onto Highway 89 SOUTH, towards Lake Tahoe/Tahoe City/Squaw Valley. Follow Highway 89 south 8 miles to the Squaw Valley Rd. Exit. Turn RIGHT and follow Squaw Valley Rd. to the base of the mountain.

From Reno, NV and Eastern U.S.: Take Interstate 80 WEST into California and on to Truckee. (Approx 30 miles from Reno) Take the Highway 89 SOUTH Exit towards Lake Tahoe/Tahoe City/Squaw Valley. Follow Highway 89 south 8 miles to the Squaw Valley Rd. Exit. Turn RIGHT and follow Squaw Valley Rd. to the base of the mountain.

Is there a Lost & Found for gear that’s gone missing during the Event?

Yes. All such items found at the checkpoints are transferred to the Finish Line area and laid out on tarps at one end of the Stadium field. UNCLAIMED ITEMS, INCLUDING DROP BAGS, NOT CLAIMED BY 3 P.M., SUNDAY, OF RUN WEEKEND WILL BE DISPOSED OF. PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE VALUABLES IN YOUR DROP BAGS.

How can I volunteer to help out during the annual event?

The race is always in need of medical professionals, aid station personnel, runner tracking, trail sweeps and start and finish-line helpers. If you’d like to volunteer, look at our Volunteering Page and then fill out the request form. We will do our best to fit you in.

Where can I go to view the Run as a spectator?

Not all of the Run course is accessible to the general public on Run Weekend. Many of the checkpoints are restricted to Run officials only, due to limited space for parking and to the need to keep the narrow access roads clear for fire and rescue equipment. Members of the press are asked to contact the WS Public Relations office well in advance by Email.

You can, however, see a lot of the Run (and related activities) first hand:

  • Squaw Valley Start: On the Friday of Run Weekend, you can observe the check-in process and listen in on the runner briefings. You can also watch the Race start at 5:00 AM on Saturday morning, although it is still quite dark at that hour.
  • Robinson Flat Checkpoint: The front runners start to arrive at about 9:30 AM, Saturday, and continue coming through until the 1:50 PM cutoff time. Note that Robinson can only be reached via the Foresthill Divide Road out of Foresthill. Allow about an hour for the trip as the road, although paved, is narrow and steep in places. Parking is very limited at Robinson: you will need to park about a mile short of Robinson Flat at Sailor Bar and take a shuttle bus to the aid station.
  • Foresthill Checkpoint: The front runners start to arrive as early as 2:30 PM, depending on trail/weather conditions. There is plenty of parking available in town and lots of places to view the runners. They will enter the checkpoint area in front of the school just north of downtown and proceed along the main street before rejoining the trail at the south end of town. The latest time for runners to reach Foresthill is about midnight.
  • No Hands Bridge Checkpoint: This checkpoint is open to the public. Park beside the roadway, just past the Highway 49 bridge at the North Fork/Middle Fork Confluence. Walk in via the graded dirt access road, about 50 yards. The front runners may arrive as early as 7:30 PM. 30-hour runners need to cross No Hands no later than about 10:00 AM, Sunday morning.

    Note: Due to the lack of safe parking, general spectators are
    discouraged at the Hwy 49 checkpoint near Cool, CA.

  • Placer HS Stadium Finish: The first runner may arrive as early as 8:00 PM. 24-hour runners must arrive by 5:00 AM, Sunday morning; 30-hour runners by 11:00 AM. Runner progress information is available from volunteers with laptops near the finish line, and runners are identified by the announcer as they enter the stadium for their “home stretch.”

As a spectator, can I walk out on the trail during the event?

Spectators are asked to stay within 1/4 mile of the checkpoints. This limit is the same as that demanded of runners’ crews.

Also, do not provide food, beverages or other assistance to runners outside the main checkpoint areas. Doing so may risk their being disqualified.